The green iguana (Iguana iguana) is a large, arboreal lizard from Central and South America. They are typically about 2 meters in length from head to tail and can weigh up to 5 kg. It is possible to determine the sex of a green iguana by examining the underside of the hind legs. Males have highly developed pores in this area that secrete scent, and are often covered in a waxy substance.
These lizards have recently become extremely popular in the pet trade – over 800,000 animals were imported into the United States alone during 1995, mainly coming from captive farming operations based in the country of origin. Despite the apparent “mass market” appeal of these animals, they are very demanding to care for properly over their lifetime, and the great majority will die within a few short years. If properly cared for, a captive green iguana can live anywhere from 8 to 16 years. The oldest known pet iguana lived 29 years.
In the wild, green iguanas are diurnal and strictly herbivorous. They can be found living in trees and near water, into which they will dive if frightened. They can fall up to 40 feet without being injured, and can run quickly despite their clumsy appearance. Because of their popularity in the pet trade and as food in Latin American countries, green iguanas are listed on the CITES Appendix II, which means they are considered a threatened species.
Iguanas have an unusual behavior when threatened – they bite onto the threatening creature and do not let go until forced to, or the threat is removed.